The ornamental, bronze top of the 67-year-old Robert J. Collier aviation trophy has been stolen, according to District of Columbia police and National Aviation Club officials.
The valuable sculpture, which is normally on display at the National Air and Space Museum, was reported missing yesterday from the aviation club's lounge in the basement of the Mayflower Hotel. It had been stored in the club lounge over the weekend after the annual Collier award dinner at the hotel Friday night.
Police reported no clues of how the heavy trophy was removed from the locked clubroom without the move being noticed by hotel employes. Only the top part of the trophy, described as 27 inches high, was missing. The base, on which the sculpture normally rests, was returned to the Air and Space Museum, officials said.
The trophy, a work by sculptor Ernest Wise Keyser, has been presented annually since 1911 for what is described on its citation as "the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America." Recipients are given a miniature copy of the trophy and their names are inscribed on the trophy itself.
The trophy is named for an early promoter of aviation who has been described as the first person to buy an airplane from the Wright brothers for personal use. Recipients of the award have included Orville Wright, Howard Hughes and some of the Apollo astronauts.
The award was presented Friday to the Air Force Tactical Air Command and its commander, Gen. Robert J. Dixon, for developing a flight training program designed to stimulate combat conditions.
Officials said the trophy was valued at $100,000 in 1951. Its current value is unknown, they said.The trophy, including its base, weighs 525 pounds.